Credibility: Unknown

According to a post on Twitter, my credibility is unknown. I (partially) disagree of course because I know what my credibility is. But the online community really doesn’t know what it is (at least not yet). So let’s see what can be known about my credibility (and yours).

I’m glad that I was given an opportunity to have my credibility evaluated out there among the *Twitterverse*. So here it is, that indiscreet Tweet:


From this Twitterer’s perspective, the Tweet is true, absolutely true. This person has no way of knowing my credibility. And it aught to be questioned by anybody following my online activity (as well we all should do of everything we encounter online).

But this Tweet raises a particular question: when is credibility relevant?

If you read my current About statement, I don’t claim to be an expert in everything, especially social media (as many are famed to do). I simply state the boring facts of my background, as an RN with a pied array of disparate experiences. My claim to social media is simple and unpretentious:

“I am currently interested in how individuals and organizations use social media tools to improve the way things get done.”

Since I don’t claim to be an expert in social media, the relevance of my credibility can only reasonably be expected to be limited to my general character: whether I am a liar, a snake-oil salesman or evil-doer par excellence. That sort of credibility gets determined over time, by users, by the things I say, Google, etc.

If any of us becomes specialized and experienced in a particular field, then our specific credibility becomes relevant. Nobody wants a random schmuck to just walk into your house and fix the plumbing just because he claims to be an expert or have has a website or blog. But that doesn’t mean we all have to be experts in order to speak our minds or to add something to an ongoing multilogue (getting tired of *conversation*).

Wikipedia discusses credibility and specifically references a mouth-watering proposition called Prominence-Interpretation Theory. You can download that exciting product if you’re hot and bothered. (It uses big words and multiplication to establish its own credibility.)

Basically, it comes down to what users notice (Prominence) and their judgment about it (Interpretation). And it’s an important topic, especially since the rate of information flowing our way is accelerating at an accelerating rate. The arithmetic is straightforward:

Prominence X Interpretation = Credibility Impact

Good luck crunching the numbers on that one. Intuitively, though, what’s our Credibility Impact? My number’s pretty low online, but not because I’m a bad person. The arithmetic says that I have to leave it up to computational and human algorithms, and so do you.

So if you’re an expert in social media, make sure you take that bold Twitterer’s implied advice to heart, regardless of his or her intriguing intentions: establish and prove your credibility. It’s good for your health and your reputation. And it will eventually boost your authority.

Western Union used to be a telecommunications authority, likely with a high credibility rating. It’s still doing OK. But the credibility it had in 1950 didn’t exactly get it the gold medal forty years later on the interwebs, did it? What credibility did Google have in 1998? Yahoo! had credibility, perhaps more so in 1998 than Google (just a supposition). And yet Google’s current stock price (one measure of credibility-ranking) suggests that its credibility gap is a lot smaller than Yahoo!’s. Go figure.

The basic point that I’d like to make is that the interwebs (or innernets as I heard once from a credible authority) has given us all a chance to contribute ANYTHING (from original insights to totally random BS and everything in between).

Examples. If you need an inguinal hernia repair, credibility is the difference between a speedy recovery and a painful death from infection or intestinal ischemia. If, however, you want a new perspective, an opinion, a fresh synthesis of old ideas, or a synergistic perspective from the infusion of multiple experiences, then credibility is secondary to your inspiration of that content. It’s up to you to be a good speneralist.

Credibility is one king in content. Obviously.

But so are: insight, creativity, skepticism, freshness of perspective and the right to be wrong and standing up corrected. And those features of an independent mind are important tools in the ongoing construction of useful and falsifiable intuition pumps.

It’s those pumps that drive knowledge and civilization forward. What are your intuition pumps? Are they credible? Or “merely” inspiring? Could they spring hope? Or leaks? Upset the stodgy status quo? Break a cold heart open and warm it?

This is my credibility: a synestheisa of metaphors. They’re meant to enliven and spread good memes in an often bad world. They’re powerful tools for evangelism, conveyance and leadership. Take them, use them or toss ’em into the drains Lethe-wards to be sunk. Time will tell if my online credibility matters to anyone, including myself.

Be true to thyselves, friends, especially when nobody else believes you. Mahalo!

This post made possible in part by an alert from TweetBeep. It’s a great (free) reputation management tool. I received no payment or solicitation for the shout-out, just remarkable service.

One Comment

  1. This is a thought-provoking post and kind of jives with what I’ve realized recently: Many social media “experts” seem to have only been so for a few months! They don’t know too much more than I could have figured out on my own after a few months of playing around with the different networks myself.

    In a way, that’s freeing. Using social media for anything other than being social (business, health care, news, etc.) is such a relatively new concept that those of us diving into it can kind of pave our own way. We can become our own experts.

    But then, of course, tried-and-true, verifiable expertise does matter, as you point out, when it comes to certain things, such as getting health information from the Internet. I can’t tell you how many myths I’ve come across that have been spread far and wide on the ‘Net, because people keep copying from each other. I even once found a big myth on the Library of Congress Web site!

    So in the end, it’s always important to do our homework when it comes to, well, important things. But vision, good intuition and imagination are forms of credibility in and of themselves when you’re talking about new media, the use of which thrives off such characteristics.

    This was probably the longest comment I’ve ever posted. Ha!

    Thanks again,

    Leigh Ann Hubbard
    Managing Editor
    James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor

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